Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Wellington HZ355 from 429 Squadron

Discussion in 'Air War in Western Europe 1939 - 1945' started by JMichel, Aug 31, 2008.

  1. JMichel

    JMichel Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2008
    Messages:
    215
    Likes Received:
    10
    (Interviewer – That’s a different deal. Ok. Let’s go. We’ve been through three; let’s go to your fourth.) Ok the fourth time was the time I went to the salt mine. (Interviewer – Where was the salt mine?) Well I’m not sure exactly. It’s a town called Teutschenthal, which is rather a small town. I’m not even sure if it would be on the map. A detailed map of Germany it would be. (Interviewer – Was it between, was it over towards Torgau?) Yes it was east. West of Torgau. Perhaps 20 miles west of Torgau and along the same rail line. (Interviewer – And that’s right on the Elbe River? Yes right along the Elbe River. They had a monument, kind of like a little obelisk. We could see it from the inside of the camp. So I asked one of the guards one day, I said “What is that?” He said “That marks the geographical center of Germany.” I said “For crying out loud, nothing like sticking me right in the middle.” Geeze we could see that inside the camp. (Interviewer – Did you ask to go to the salt mine?) Well I changed my identity with this guy, Jim Whitrick. I changed identity with a man by the name of AC Brown. I changed my identity with a man, well when I was on the jump, on the evasion before I got captured. I travelled under the name of Henri Lurcan and Jan Lauwers. They were two Belgians and they told me that these people were actually dead. The Germans didn’t know that they were dead. So I was travelling under their name. They were real people. And then in the camp I became AC Brown. I became James Whitrick. But the funny part of it is the US Air Force, whenever I filled out a piece of paper for security clearance; I always had to list these aliases. And I didn’t the first time. The first time they stuck me out on a flight line in Turner Field in Georgia. We had to fill out the paper, you know, and I didn’t put that down. And they came back at me. They knew. (Interviewer – So what did you do? In the salt mine, what did you do?) Well when I got to the salt mine, there were two levels in this mine. The upper level was called Cally salts. It was red and from it the refined Bromine. That’s one of the Halogens, Chlorine, Fluorine, Iodine, well there’s five of them. One of them when I studied this in school, they hadn’t discovered the fifth halogen at that time. Bromine and of course there’s all kinds of different applications for that. The lower level, now we were 2100 feet down. The lower level was another 1400 feet below us and they were called the selenious salts. That was the table salt and it was grey. It had this dirty grey color when it came up and they had to wash it and clean it and make table salt out of it. Also from this Cally salt they, after they got the Bromine out, that was the red, then they refined chloramagnesium. That’s a fertilizer. It was in a liquid form. It would settle out and become a solid. It was very, very solid, dry and then they would break it up with a jack hammer and they would grind it into powder. Put it in bags and ship it out. That was the three products. Now when I got there, they put me on the surface. I wasn’t down in the min. This Bromine, they called it the Brom. That was the section I worked in and that is where we packed the bottles of Bromine into wooden boxes. The wooden box were about that square (about one foot) and about that high (over one foot) and they had a u-shaped line of them. About four high. We put four of these bottles, these chemical bottles, two liter or something like that. They had a glass stopper. They had putty over the glass stopper and a piece of paper over the putty and string. And they tied it up around the neck of the bottle. Well the oil in the putty would soften this paper. We put four bottles in there. First of all, we put about that much (about 3 inches) of this very dusty dirt, down in the bottom of the thing. Out four bottles on top of that. Filled the rest of it up. We made sure that that far from the edge of the thing and from each other. Filled them up and just before we put the lid on this, we would run our hand across there and break the seal on every one of these bottles. This paper that had been softened up from the oil out of the putty. Well of course, somewhere on down the line, somebody is going to tip one of these things. Turn it upside down and all the Bromine was going to run out of it. Well one of the..we were loading a car with these boxes and one of them apparently spilled some stuff and I remember the guard saying “Stinkin, Stinkin.” You know what he’s talking about. They were smelling this Bromine. It has a pungent smell and they didn’t investigate to find out why the thing…(Interviewer – You had done that on purpose, to sabotage?) Yes. Yes. Now the chloramagnesium was in paper bags. And we were loading cars, freight cars with it. We would load it all the way up with these things. As each level of bags, before we put the next level of bags on it, we would go along, get a piece of stick, it looked like a piece of broomstick and one guy had this and the other guy did not, so we grabbed the top of the bag. It had an ear on each side. We grabbed the ear of the bag, stuck this thing behind the bag and the other guy grabbed the side. We pulled it up that way and that’s the way we threw it into the car. Well of course just before we covered that pass up, we went ahead with this club and busted open the bags. So when it got ready to unload those cars, they had a mess on their hands, I’ll tell you. Did you ever see the device that they used, the cigarette and the book of matches? (Interviewer – No I don’t think so?) Take a book of matches, you light a cigarette. You stick it through there. Pt down the cover of the matchbook and throw it where you want it. Well of course the cigarette burns and burns and when it gets to those matches, shoom and up it goes. That was another thing we use to throw in the chloramagnesium things. It would get down, on down the road, for crying out loud, they would be 15 to 20 miles down the road before the dog-gone car bursted. (Interviewer – They never caught on?) No. (Interviewer – Was the place run by German civilians or?) Yes and they had a lot of communists in there. They were in there for punishment. They had a lot of French POW’s. Some Poles and the rest were British. (Interviewer – How many prisoners would be working in the mine with you guys?) Probably 150. (Interviewer – Any German civilians in there too or?) Yeah the communists were German civilians. (Interviewer – Oh they were.) They were there for punishment. (Interviewer – But no non-punishment people?) No. Of course the supervisors. They guys that told you what you had to do. They were all German civilians and they weren’t communists.
     
  2. JMichel

    JMichel Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2008
    Messages:
    215
    Likes Received:
    10
    (Interviewer – So did you try and escape from there, when you were there or what?) Well what happened was, like I said, they had me working above, not down in the mine, so I was sitting there. They use to have what they call Frühstück, now that’s lunch and we use to take about half a sandwich from the lager, which was over at the other side of this little village and we would take one of those with us and eat that. Let us get off for that. I was sitting there, looking at this fence. One of these wire fences. It wasn’t chain link. It was like that (hands showed rectangle shape. It was about that far (1 to 1 ½ feet) from the bottom of the fence. I thought to myself, well, hmmm. I sat there this one day, when we went for Frühstück and instead of eating my half of a sandwich, I stuffed it in my pocket, crawled under the fence, across several rail lines and a bunch of cars sitting there. And of course the cars, I was hiding behind. They couldn’t see me from the other side of this fence because of these many cars. I went across the road and up a side of a hill and there was an out cropping of rock there. I just sat down in the out cropping of rock and watched them hunt for me. And they were hunting all through these cars, opening and closing the doors on them and just beating the bushes and I’m just up there watching all of this. (Interviewer – Was this when they were getting ready to go back and they took a head count?) No, there was only about four of us working in the Brom. So they knew right away, one man short. When it got dark, I came out. I had a map, a silk map. An Army Air Force man gave me that. I had went up to this lazarette in Bitterfeld, this town of Bitterfeld. It wasn’t too far down the road. I don’t remember why this time I went but there was something wrong with me. I was in there and this Army Air Force man came in and he gave me..they hadn’t searched him yet. He had been hit, had been in an aircraft. They put a shoot on him and threw him out. So he would get medical treatment before he bled to death on the way back to England. There was a fair amount of that. We had quite a number of people that happened to. He gave me his silk map before they searched him. Of course they came in and stood him up against the wall. The guy had several wounds in his legs. Bleeding all over the place but never the less, they stood him up there, searched him. But I had the map. But I didn’t have a compass. Very important, the compass. I had never done a celestial navigation at that point. I wasn’t sure just how good at it I was gonna be. I knew how but I had never done it. When it got dark I stuck the North Star behind me. I knew I had to go due south. I knew that there was this town Naumburg. Now Naumburg had a rail road yard but the tracks only came down to Naumburg and stopped at the rail road yards. They hauled in, they had a bunch of burned out cars there too. Thanks to the Anglo-American Airborne Demolition Company. If I hit that rail road and then a highway then I knew that I had to turn left to get into the yards. On the other hand, if I didn’t hit the rail road but hit the highway, then I knew I had to turn right. Simple deduction. I hit that almost on the nose. Now I figure about 25 miles over land, no highways, no paths, no nothing. I came that close. I spent the next 50 years just patting myself on the back for a dam good job on navigation. I got in there and that was the time I used the chrome ore thing. I got caught outside Friedrichshafen (Note: His plan was once he got there was to swim across the lake to Switzerland.) I got caught outside Friedrichshafen on the Swiss border. (Note: He could see light across the lake to Switzerland. He said at the mine he was given trousers and a jacket to wear during work and that was what he wore during the escape. After he was caught, he was returned to the Lager for the salt mine. He was held for a couple of days in the city jail first and then put back in the Lager. He returned to work at the mine and went down to 2100 feet inside the mine. After about 3 weeks or so his dysentery was very bad and he was extremely weak. A German guard named Schuze took him from the Lager, which was on the west side of town to the mine that was on the east side of town. He could not walk and was sick. The guard began whipping him and made him crawl on his hands and knees to the mine. He was hit along the way with the guard’s rifle and the flat end of the bayonet. Once he got to the mine and down the shaft, the French POW’s kept him behind them in a cave to rest. At that point he had to notify the Germans who he really was so that he could get some medical attention. On the way back to the Muhlberg, he stayed overnight in Stalag 4G, Torgau. He was put into the clink that was in the basement of a concrete building. There was another POW in with him, a rather large Italian. He was pretty sick with dysentery and he woke up during the night and found the other POW trying to pick his pocket. He had a small knife and thinks the POW had seen him with it. He yelled at him and pushed him away and wasn’t bothered by him anymore that night.)
     
  3. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2006
    Messages:
    24,985
    Likes Received:
    2,384
    Fascinating and so much to read, I started with a couple of paragrahs but I will have to do over and chekc the details. It must take you days! Thank you very much for sharing this with us.
     
  4. JMichel

    JMichel Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2008
    Messages:
    215
    Likes Received:
    10
    It is a bit long isn't it.....I didn't realize how much it would be until after I started:eek: I do have a bit more. I put in an Information Request on the Leipzig area also yesterday. It's one of my details that I am trying to find information on. I am also working on getting information from Ravensbruck....one lady from the Belgium Resistance was arrested a year after helping my uncle and the other lady was with my Uncle when they were arrested by the Gestapo in Paris, she was the Doctor. I have learned that she worked in Ravensbruck as a POW Doctor while there and made statements after the liberation. The only thing I found out about my Uncle's Wellington was that it went down on a farm and has never been recovered, his pilot still missing. It is my understanding that they don't search and recover anymore and it is considered the burial ground but I have no information on exactly where it is.

    Also there was a mention of my Uncle's MI9 report on one of the Belgium Resistance helpers documents so I know it is there somewhere...:confused:

    My plan is within a couple of years to take a trip and retrace his journey. We were going to try for this year with my uncle but his doctors say no. :(

    Jo Ann
     
  5. greglewis

    greglewis Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2008
    Messages:
    129
    Likes Received:
    14
    Jo Ann
    Great to see you are still working so hard on your research. Must be a full time job by now!
    I saw your message re the Biernaux family. I can't remember whether I sent you this or not - it's the unedited version of an article I wrote for the Evasion Lines Memorial Society.

    While working on ‘Airman Missing’, a short biography of John Evans, I became intrigued with those who had helped him evade capture in occupied Belgium.
    John evaded the Germans for 114 days after his Halifax was shot down in May 1944.
    His helpers included Emile Roiseux and Vincent and Ghislaine Wuyts-Denis, but for the purposes of this article I’d like to concentrate on the Biernaux family of Hasselt.
    I am currently working on a TV documentary of John’s life and am hoping to interview relatives of those who helped John.
    John and fellow crew members Doug Lloyd and Bill “Robbie” Robertson were guided from a makeshift camp in a wood to Hasselt by Florent Biernaux on Sunday, May 20, 1944.
    I did not realize when writing ‘Airman Missing’ just what a hub of Résistance activity the four-storey townhouse at 16 Boulevard Thonissen had become.
    Since the book came out I have been contacted by fellow researcher Jo Ann Michel, whose uncle, RCAF gunner Walter Mullaney, passed through Hasselt in June 1943.
    Jo Ann’s documents include affidavits regarding the Biernaux family’s involvement in clandestine actions, including the production of undercover newspapers.
    Florent Biernaux had been born in Hasselt on April 3, 1896, and had served with distinction during the Great War. He had been decorated with the Chevalier de l’Ordre de Leopold II avec glaives and the Croix de Guerre avec palmes. (He would receive another Croix de Guerre as part of a WW2 haul of medals which also included a Médaille de la Résistance, a King’s Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom, from Britain, and a Freedom Medal from the Americans.)
    Florent’s wife was no less remarkable. Olympe Doby was born at Cambron St Vincent on January 24, 1900. One US document reads: “In addition to shouldering the responsibilities of chief of her group, Madame Biernaux also sheltered an estimated fifty Allied fliers in her own house, where she fed, clothed and cared for them over varying periods of time.
    “From her home in the center of Hasselt, surrounded by German occupation forces and police agents, she supervised the multiple tasks of her group, gathering retrieved airmen from the surrounding area and providing them with food, civilian disguises, false papers and circulation permits…
    “Disregarding all danger to herself and to her family, who worked closely with her, she inspired her associates by her own courageous acts. Whenever the opportunities for evacuation of aviators involved highly dangerous risks, Madame Biernaux personally conveyed the airmen along German-patrolled roads to Brussels or Liege.”
    She led the organisation, it said, for a “year and nine months” until her and her family’s arrest. (Did she take over the group following the arrest of group leaders Lucien and Tina Collin in June 1943?)
    Her medals included a Croix de Guerre, a Médaille de la Résistance and a Freedom Medal.
    The couple had two children. John has no recollection of seeing their daughter, Elaine, born March 1930, but he remembers their son, Raymond, born May 1924.
    Raymond was affiliated to the Groupe Hoornaert-Dirix from August 1940 and, although arrested with his parents, was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre de Leopold II avec glaives and the Croix de Guerre avec palmes. These awards, sadly, would be made posthumously.
    John remembered that food and medicine were in good black-market supply at the Biernaux household and, although the town also seemed “well-stocked” with Germans, some of the dangers came from closer to home.
    “The day after we arrived the Americans sent over some Thunderbolt fighters to dive bomb the bridge across the Albert Canal which runs through Hasselt,” said John.
    For three days, the men watched the raids from Biernaux’s backyard.
    On Wednesday, May 25, Florent Biernaux took them by tram to Liège where they waited in a café while Florent went to make a phone call. Fifteen minutes later a man and girl came in. “They talked for a while and then Biernaux told us that we would now go with these new friends. He wished us good luck, said goodbye and left.”
    In a letter to John Evans after the war, Florent explained that his family, along with other members of the organisation, including friend Jacques Constant Bertels, had been arrested on August 5, 1944.
    Florent was tortured by the Gestapo while, on August 14, Olympe and two other members of the group, Mrs Degueldre and her daughter, were moved to St-Gilles and from there to Ravensbrück.
    Florent was able to escape on September 2 but his family was to suffer for some time to come.
    The three women came home on May 24, 1945. Olympe had lost 45 pounds in weight.
    The family already knew that Jacques Bertels had perished in Neuengamme concentration camp, near Hamburg, but, as Florent wrote, “we know nothing of my son”.
    He added: “I hope that God will give us back my son Raymond and then we can begin again a new life.”
    Sadly, that was not to be the case. Raymond had died in Neuengamme on March 3, 1945. He was 20.
    Medals and citations aside, the real testament to the bravery of the Biernaux family was the lives they saved. The family helped around 60 airmen before their arrest.
    A list of airmen helped by the Biernaux includes Dutch flier Bram van der Stok. Van der Stok had escaped from Stalag Luft III on the night of March 24/25, 1944, during the ‘Great Escape’. He stopped with the Biernaux family on his way through Belgium, eventually reaching Spain on June 9 and becoming one of only three of the 76 escapers to make it to freedom.
    I recently had the honour to interview Ken Rees, the last man in the Stalag Luft III not to get out of the tunnel. He said he had got to know van der Stok well but that he knew him as “Bob”.
    Ken told me: “He was only part-trained as a doctor but he used to help with the medical side in the camp. He went out to America. He was a doctor in Hawaii. He died in Hawaii.”
    I asked him what van der Stok was like.
    “Oh, very pleasant. Nice. Amusing. Spoke perfect English, of course. You couldn’t tell he wasn’t English. He spoke German perfectly. And so he got across on the escape. He was able to talk German. He was very well dressed and got into Belgium where he knew people. He contacted friends and everything and got eventually fitted up properly and went through France to Spain and back to England.”
    ** Greg Lewis, saoirsepress*gmail.com (replace "*" by "@" when copying the email )
     
  6. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2006
    Messages:
    24,985
    Likes Received:
    2,384
    Hi Greg, thank you very much for your input. I took the liberty to slightly alter your email to avoid spammers from catching it
     
  7. greglewis

    greglewis Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2008
    Messages:
    129
    Likes Received:
    14
    Thanks Skipper. I appreciate that
     
  8. PATS

    PATS recruit

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2010
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi,
    In my volunteer WWII research I do have the crash location
    of the Wellington L7844 in my area.
    One of them was Augustin Sestak and became a POW.
    Is there more info or a photo from him
    Regards PATS
    Volunteer WWII researcher - area Vollenhove- The Netherlands
     
  9. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2006
    Messages:
    24,985
    Likes Received:
    2,384
    Cheers Pats and welcome on this fine forum
     
  10. Michael Moores LeBlanc

    Michael Moores LeBlanc Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    6
    Hello,
    Just surfed on to this message while doing research on Russel.
    If you would like to know more about Collaris (de Bie) & company, perhaps I can help.
    Michael
     
  11. PhillW

    PhillW recruit

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2010
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi Jo Ann

    My name is Phillip Witterick and my grandfather was James Witterick late of the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and POW 279530 at Stalag IV-B. My Grandad's full name was Clement James Witterick but as he did not like his first name he was known to all as James or more commonly Jimmy. Also he had been living temporarily in Coventry when he was called up but he was actually from Marylebone in central London and returned there to marry and raise a family after the war.

    Sadly Grandad passed away in 1991 but we were very close and in his latter years he started to tell a few stories about his service in North Africa, Italy, his capture at Casino (where he was badly injured) but only rarely about his time as a POW. He did however make mention of swapping identity with an American airman with the RCAF and described how he was happy to help (not least to get a break from the salt mine!) even though for him it ended in the cooler.

    Jimmy made an escape attempt himself towards the end of the war driven in part by starvation and the deteriorating conditions in the camp. To weak to evade capture for long he was returned to Stalag IV-B. Come liberation he weighed under 8 stone despite standing over 6 foot but he never spoke in detail about this time.

    We are all proud of Grandad and grateful as we are of so many of his generation for the things he did. It's a real pleasure therefore to see his name remembered by a brother in arms.

    Good Luck with the research

    Phillip Witterick
     
  12. Pierre M. D'HUMIERES

    Pierre M. D'HUMIERES recruit

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi ! For years, we try hardly to find who was the airman POW at BIGNAN (LOCMINE area, Britanny - FRANCE) May 29, 1943 from B17 # 42-3113/ 379 BG. The pilot was Arthur P Hale. We have all the 10 names of the crew but cannot learn who was the airman made POW at LOCMINE/ BIGNAN. If anyone knows anything, please, do advise at :

    Pierre M d'Humieres pdhumieres@free.fr or simply on this forum.
    It should be very appreciated.
     
  13. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2006
    Messages:
    24,985
    Likes Received:
    2,384
    either Ford Chester or Whitney, I have no further details about these men, but I suppose they were caught in the same area because all three were in Fresnes before being sent to Germany.
     
  14. heidebloemke

    heidebloemke recruit

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2011
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Florent en Olympe Biernaux-Doby at Hasselt (Belgium). Walter Mullaney, daughter Eliane, Raymond Biernaux (1943) View attachment 13516
     

    Attached Files:

    • 83.jpg
      83.jpg
      File size:
      88 KB
      Views:
      6
  15. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2006
    Messages:
    24,985
    Likes Received:
    2,384
    Thanks so much for posting this Heidebloemke
     
  16. Denise

    Denise recruit

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2011
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Do you know any information about George Sullivan who flew with Winans Shaddix on Ol' Dad, shot down April 1944, taken POW.

    Also information about my Uncle's story: B-17 BTG shot down March 1944, evaded with French Resistance people to Brittany (Beg-An-Fry beach) April 1944. I would like the names of the 2 British SOE's that were also picked up by British MGB that night.

    Thank you.
     
  17. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2007
    Messages:
    3,000
    Likes Received:
    328
    Location:
    Vernon BC Canada
    See this nicely written, informative and detailed report on this crash on 27 April 1944 at: 1st Lt. Winans C. Shaddix
    - I have not been able to find the title of his book.

    Crash of Ol' Dad at: Crash of Ol' Dad 42-3534
     
  18. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2007
    Messages:
    3,000
    Likes Received:
    328
    Location:
    Vernon BC Canada
    Happy to try to help but we would need more information. The more the merrier. (-:
    Name, Squadron number, bomber group, crew members... mission objective... where he was shot down. etc... any info along that line would prove most useful.

    Cheers!
     
  19. vetorx

    vetorx recruit

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2011
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Dear J MICHEL
    Do you have seen a picture of Dessoubrie ? I have one and can I can send it.
    Best regards
    vetorx
     
  20. Marsha Eaton

    Marsha Eaton Member

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2011
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    My father charles Eaton was a crew member on the Concho Clipper and i'm looking for family members of other crew members. Please email me if you know of any. We would love to have pictures of our dad.
    Thank You, Marsha Eaton Archer Robinson
     

Share This Page